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Whether you need to tame an unruly mane or just want the occasional style upgrade, hair gel is a must-have. To help you find the right product for your grooming routine, we’ve combed through the available products and selected the 15 best hair gels for men in 2023. You can thank us later!
Hair Gel vs. Pomade
To understand how hair gel works and whether it’s the right product for you, it’s a good idea to get to know the other options out there. One of the most popular products is pomade, which comes in water-based and oil-based varieties. While lacking the extreme hold that gel provides, pomade makes hair slightly more manageable without dramatically altering its texture.
Pomades are often rich in moisture, making them a particularly good choice for men with dry hair who want a little added softness and shine. Just know that a pomade won’t hold hair as strongly or for as long as a gel will, and it may be difficult to wash out.
Hair Gel vs. Mousse
This styling foam often comes out of an aerosol can and provides light coverage with a little extra volume. Most mousses contain alcohol in some form, so they can be irritating to those with sensitive scalps. It’s also worth noting that mousse is less effective on short hair, so if you’re working with a fresh cut, this may not do the trick. For men with long hair looking for moderate hold and a boost in volume, mousse is a great and highly versatile option.
Hair Gel vs. Hair Wax
The difference between hair gels and hair waxes lies in the ingredients. Hair wax is made up of ingredients like beeswax, and therefore has a different texture than gel. Unlike hair gel, which can be applied to both wet and dry hair, hair wax is a tool for dry hair only. Wax can get flyaways under control and smooth out curls, but may impart a greasy look to hair. It doesn’t stiffen your strands in the way gel does, and it lacks gel’s long-term hold.
When to Use Hair Gel
Gel is best known for the slicked-back or spiky looks it can create, but it’s far more versatile than that. It works like glue, keeping your hair in place throughout a long day so you don’t have to worry about touch-ups. Since hair gel is the most powerful of hair tamers, it’s great for men with curly hair or those going for a specific look. Use hair gel when you want to mask greasy hair and give it a wet, classic appearance, or when you want to create a little texture to make a flat head of hair more interesting. Some men use gel daily, while others bring it out only for special occasions.
How to Use Hair Gel
Even if you’ve been using hair gel your whole life, you’ll want to follow these instructions to ensure you’re applying it properly:
Moderation is key. Go overboard and you’ll look too greasy!
Choose the right type of gel for your hair–it comes in lightweight and heavy options to suit different needs.
Starting at the roots, apply gel to your hair evenly. This ensures that the product is well distributed. Avoid applying too much on your scalp, as it may irritate your skin.
Use a comb or your fingers to style your hair the way you like it, and then leave your hair to set. Resist the urge to play with your look once it’s done!
Take the time to wash gel out of your hair before going to bed so you can let your hair and scalp repair overnight. One great thing about gel is that it washes out quickly with water (no shampoo needed), so it shouldn’t add a lot of time to your routine.
1. Blu Atlas Hair Gel
The best hair gel for men is the best hair gel for all men, which is what you get in this neat little package from Blu Atlas. It’s formulated for all hair types, so no matter what kind of mane you’re hoping to tame, this product will do it. The cherry on top is that you get hold and shine from naturally derived ingredients, like aloe vera, glycerin, and panthenol that aid in volume and moisture rather than drying hair out.
About the Brand: Blu Atlas is designed for “modern men,” bringing them high-quality skin and hair care products made of harmless ingredients that come from natural sources like plants, minerals, and fruits. The brand’s vegan products, which are made in the USA, take men’s grooming to the next level, offering clean formulas that feel luxurious and can serve as the foundation of a whole new self-care routine.
2. Harry’s Sculpting Gel
Of the more affordable drugstore hair gels out there, Harry’s Sculpting Gel is also one of the best. The non-drying formula is super strong, offering a firm hold to keep your hair in place throughout the workday, or whenever you need a sculpted coiffure. Harry’s gel is alcohol free, meaning it won’t damage your hair. Instead, it creates a clean finish that isn’t too greasy or glossy, and rinses out easily when you’re through with it.
About the Brand: Harry’s is all about performance and accessibility. They’ve brought together a team of professionals to design products that are high quality without breaking the bank. Another thing to celebrate about Harry’s is the brand’s commitment to mental health. They donate 1% of sales to organizations that provide mental healthcare services to men, meaning your purchase has an impact beyond just upgrading your grooming routine.
3. Baxter of California Thickening Style Gel
Dense, wild curls? Pin-straight hair? Man bun? Baxter of California’s Thickening Style Gel has got your back. It gives you that slicked-back look (heads up, it’s quite shiny) with minimal effort, but won’t feel crunchy or flake off. What makes this one of the best hair gels for men is the addition of ingredients like ginger and birch juice, which work to soften hair while coaxing out a little extra growth and protecting your scalp. It also contains panthenol for added volume.
About the Brand: This California-based brand has been around since 1965, providing premium grooming solutions for men. Now Baxter of California hair and skin products can be found in a number of retailers, and the brand has opened a barbershop in West Hollywood to help men look and feel their best.
4. American Crew’s Firm Hold Styling Gel
American Crew represents classic grooming for modern men, with solid products that you can find in your local drugstore. This particular gel was designed with a low pH to protect your scalp from drying out, and doesn’t contain alcohol. Instead, it turns to ingredients like ginseng and vitamin B5 to give extra lift, hold and plenty of shine. Safflower seed oil stimulates growth and keeps hair strong, and soapbark extract is included for its hair-growth and anti-inflammatory benefits.
About the Brand: American Crew was founded by a hair stylist in 1994, and has been a leader in the men’s grooming industry ever since. The brand puts out classically inspired products that are simple and easy to use, offering everything from hair gels and shaving items to shampoos and body washes.
5. Seb Man The Player
You don’t need to be a player to wear Seb Man’s The Player, but you might feel like one. Unlike some of the other products on this list, The Player provides medium hold, keeping your hair tidy without gluing it there. This, in tandem with the product’s subtle shine, creates the perfect balance between natural and put-together. The secret ingredient in this formula is guarana extract, which fortifies your hair and supplies the scalp with caffeine for extra growth. We love the gel’s refreshing bergamot and pink pepper scent, which is sure to complement your cologne.
About the Brand: Sebastian prides itself on “limitless self-expression,” and creates hair products to that effect. This has been a go-to brand for stylists for a number of decades, and they launched the Seb Man product line to appeal directly to men like you.
6. Oribe Crème for Style
Once you get past the sizable price tag, you’re sure to fall in love with this product from Oribe, which is definitely one of the best hair gels for men. The luxurious Crème for Style experience begins with the scent, a sensual mix of bergamot, jasmine and sandalwood. All it takes is a quarter-sized dollop for soft, shiny, reined-in hair you didn’t even know was possible. This is also a great product to use if you skipped conditioning, as it contains geranium, lavender and chamomile extracts to soften each strand. Green tea and vitamin E provide hair and scalp with antioxidant protection, guar gum tackles frizz, and a blend of silicone and vitamins creates high shine.
About the Brand: Oribe was created by the hair stylist of the same name, a renowned professional and hair deity to the stars. The stylist’s first line of products came out in 1995, and in the years since Oribe has become a brand worthy of all the hype.
7. Jack Black’s Body Building Hair Gel
This gel from Jack Black is like a gym for your hair. Well, not really, but it will certainly inject lots of body into your ’do! What sets this product apart is its clean ingredient list and fragrance-free formula, making it a great option for those who want to avoid using multiple scented products with conflicting fragrance profiles. You’ll get a medium hold, a weightless feel and benefits in the form of vitamins, nutrient-rich white lupin protein and other botanicals designed to soften, strengthen and protect your scalp and hair. A great option for everyday use, especially if you have a sensitive scalp.
About the Brand: Jack Black has nothing to do with the actor of the same name, but has a strong reputation of its own. The brand is all about addressing the skin and hair needs of men without loading them up with chemicals. If you’re looking for no-nonsense products, Jack Black is right up your alley.
8. R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel
R+Co’s Motorcycle combines the best of hair gel and hair wax, with a rich texture that brings more than just support to your hair. While it ensures that your pompadour will stay in place, Motorcycle also hydrates and imparts shine for a healthier head of hair. Coconut oil has a hand in these effects, coating your hair in moisture and bringing out its thickness. Sunflower seed extract repairs damaged hair, keratin pumps up the volume in a natural way, and a heat-styling conditioner complex staves off damage if you hit your hair with high temperatures.
About the Brand: R+Co doesn’t focus solely on the main function of its products; rather, it concentrates on the overall experience. That means selectively choosing ingredients and paying attention to how those ingredients impact your body and the environment. R+Co is transitioning all of its packaging to 55% PCR material, and is formulating products without harmful additives like sulfates, parabens and mineral oils.
9. Aesop Sculpt Hair Polish
No matter your hair type, Aesop’s Sculpt Hair Polish is there to give you that sexy just-surfaced-from-the-Mediterranean look with enough hold that you won’t be checking your reflection in every window to make sure each hair is still in place. Hydrolyzed oats supply continuous moisture to your hair and scalp, clover flower conditions and adds shine, and lime plays with bergamot rind for a lively scent you won’t be able to get enough of.
About the Brand: Aesop was formed in 1987, and has its headquarters in Melbourne, where the brand was founded. You can always count on Aesop for bougie, apothecary-style skin and hair care, plus some of the best scents in town.
10. Mitch Steady Grip Gel
You might not always want the slick effect of a high-hold hair gel, and that’s okay. Mitch Steady Grip Styling Gel is one of the best hair gels for men looking for medium hold and shine, who want a refreshing scent combination of lavender and pine, plus enough definition for a little boost in confidence. This gel is vegan, color-safe and paraben-free, so you should have no worries about combing it through your hair each day.
About the Brand: Mitch is a subset of Paul Mitchell, one of the best-known hair stylists and hair care brands. The brand’s products are 40 years in the making, combining industry knowledge with a passion for great-looking hair.
11. Dove Men+Care Taming Gel
Some gels replace your hair’s natural texture with an unappealing straw-like crunch. This Taming Gel from Dove is great for unruly curls, out-of-whack waves or just about any other hair type that needs a helping hand. It works with your natural hair texture rather than against it, keeping everything nice and tight while enhancing the quality of your hair rather than burying it in product. Caffeine boosts circulation in the scalp to reduce the appearance of thinning, and glycerin keeps hair smooth.
About the Brand: Dove is a beloved drugstore body care brand, and Men+Care is specifically engineered to meet men’s needs. The brand’s products are always affordable and high-quality, and most can be found on a grocery store shelf near you.
12. Göt2b Ultra Glued
This stying gel lives up to the Invincible label–it can handle anything you throw at it. Trust this Ultra Glued Styling Gel to tame your cowlick or whip those curls into shape in no time. It probably has the strongest hold of all the gels on our list, and is not for the faint of heart. If you’re attempting a daring hairstyle that needs to triumph over gravity to stay in place, this is the gel you should use.
About the Brand: Göt2b is part of Schwarzkopf, a German brand focused on innovation. The brand has evolved throughout its illustrious career, inventing powder shampoo, liquid shampoo and hairspray to keep up with the times. You can continue to count on the brand for solutions to your most pressing hair-related problems, or just to produce a gel that outlasts the best of them.
13. Aveda Men Pure-Formance Firm Hold Gel
You’ll get a lot of bang for your buck with this hair gel, which combines a lightweight feel with a heavy-duty formula, and enough UVA protection to put your mind at ease when you spend a whole summer day out under the sun. Tocopherol acts as a potent antioxidant in this formula to keep oxidative stress away, and sunflower seed oil provides moisture so you don’t have to worry about the gel drying out your hair. Balding men will also be happy to know that this gel contains licorice root, an ingredient known for its ability to improve circulation to jumpstart the growth process.
About the Brand: You’ve probably heard of Aveda, a high-class hair brand with ayurvedic roots that boasts a number of natural products. Using pure plant essences, Aveda creates products that improve the health of your hair while giving you the effects you’re looking for.
14. Pinaud Clubman Styling Gel
Good luck finding a more powerful gel for $7! This Pinaud classic is sure to give you control over your hair but won’t leave it too crunchy or uncomfortable. This is a product that barbershops are likely to have on hand, as it’s dependable and fuss-free, with a side of hydration thanks to hydrolyzed wheat extract.
About the Brand: Pinaud goes all the way back to the 1800s, when Édouard Pinaud was a famed Parisian perfumier who opened a shop in the city for his luxury products. Fast forward 200 years and Pinaud is still going strong, creating trusted grooming products favored by both barbers and the man on the street.
15. Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel
Maximum hold and maximum shine are on the ticket with Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel. This product is especially effective for men with fine to medium hair, and is the best tool for mohawks, spiky looks or just a plain old slick-back. Aloe and tea tree oil treat all of your senses to a superior experience, creating an invigorating scent and providing a little extra moisture that may just make your morning hair style a sacred ritual.
About the Brand: Tea Tree is another line in the Paul Mitchell collection, focusing on the magical ingredient that is tea tree oil and its numerous benefits and energizing scent.